Jan 28, 2014; Iowa City, IA, USA; Michigan State Spartans guard Keith Appling (11) is defended by guard Mike Gesell (10) of the Iowa Hawkeyes during the second half at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Michigan State beat Iowa 71-69. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Keith Appling: Trail Blazers Summer League Profile


The Portland Trail Blazers made their first splash after the NBA Draft and signed Keith Appling, former Michigan State point guard and undrafted free agent, to play for the Trail Blazers summer league team July 11-21 in Las Vegas.

If this was any other draft, Appling would have been, at worst, a second round pick. Because this draft was so loaded, Appling fell out of the draft completely, which totally works out for Portland. They have the chance to capitalize on the draft, even though they had to sit out. Depending on how it goes in Las Vegas, Appling will have a reasonable chance to make the team next season. Hopefully, the Blazers got a steal.

The former Michigan State Spartan is going to get a real shot to make the team, too. Appling could, and probably should, be on the Trail Blazers’ roster at the start of next season, especially if Portland doesn’t bring back Mo Williams. Right now, backup point guard is a wide-open position for the Trail Blazers. If the season were to start tomorrow, C.J. McCollum would most likely get the nod, but Coach Terry Stotts would be making a gamble by playing him as the backup with no replacement. If Williams and Earl Watson both leave this offseason, which is expected, Appling would be the third point guard on the roster.

Adding Appling to the summer league roster is an experiment to see if he can make the cut. If Appling can make it, the Blazers have a little extra money to go after a backup big or wing this offseason. If he can’t make the team or be expected to contribute down the road, the Blazers need to bring in extra help at backup point guard. Doing so would shrink the Blazers’ options in free agency and make it more difficult for Portland make the necessary acquisitions to improve the roster.

So, who is Keith Appling, and what can he bring to the Blazers, you ask?

2013-14 Stats: 11.2 PPG/4.5 Asts/3.0 Rebs/1.2 Stls/2.1 TO

Appling played four years at Michigan State under Coach Tom Izzo and had a very successful college career but never really made a big breakthrough because of injuries. His injuries are probably the major reason he wasn’t taken in the draft, but Appling was always going to be a fringe player because he’s not clear-cut top-60 talent. If he did get picked, it would have been because he was the perfect fit for a team.

 

 

Appling’s more of a traditional point guard than anyone on the Blazers’ roster in that he’s not an extra dynamic athlete or a score-first player. Appling can score, which he did more of as a junior when he was healthy, but he also can pass, like he did during his senior season when he struggled with a nagging wrist injury. Obviously, his numbers aren’t going to blow people away, but the fact that he played consistently for four years on one of the the most loaded teams in college basketball should count for something. Last season, Appling played with at least three or four future NBA players, including two first-rounders, Gary Harris and Adreian Payne. As the point guard, Appling was called on to get the ball to those guys, rather than try to find his own shot. He could have scored more or collected more assists, but that wasn’t how Izzo wanted Appling to play, which led to clashes at times.

Appling’s attitude has been somewhat of a problem in his career. On multiple occasions, he got into verbal scuffles with teammates and Coach Izzo. Some teams may have viewed that as a negative, but personally, I like a point guard who has an edge to him. Former Sonics’ great Gary Payton didn’t get anywhere by being timid and coy, so it can be beneficial to have a point guard who isn’t afraid to speak his mind.

Appling seems like a good fit for Portland because the Blazers don’t really have anyone like him right now. Both, Damian Lillard and  McCollum are shooters who can play point guard. I don’t mean that as a negative, either. They’re just better shooters than they are at anything else, and luckily, they can shoot the ball really well. Appling is more of an unfinished product offensively and doesn’t have the best shooting stroke. He’s a system player who can run the pick-and-roll and make the right plays within the offense. Appling isn’t going to ISO or carve up a team with his penetration. He’s basically a game manager, which could be very productive for the Trail Blazers.

Whether or not Appling makes the team will be determined in the next few weeks and months, but it’s important the Trail Blazers and General Manager Neil Olshey are identifying areas of need and trying to be creative in filling voids. That’s exactly what you have to do in the NBA, and you never know when you’ll find that diamond in the rough. Portland has to keep looking, but hopefully, Appling is their guy.

 

 

Tags: 2014 Nba Draft Featured Keith Appling Nba Summer League Popular Portland Trail Blazers

  • beguilinduck

    Why do you say Mo Williams is “expected” leave PDX? Who expects he will leave, you? Do you have any sources to back this assertion? No one else is reporting Mo’s imminent departure. Here are a few reasons I think your reporting is off-base.
    1) Terry Stotts has called Mo “the best back-up point guard in the league.”
    2) Neil Olshey has said re-signing Mo for next season is “critical.”
    3) Mo has said he wants to come back.
    4) The Blazer bench has scored the fewest points in the league over the past two seasons.
    5) Mo Williams was the Blazers leading scorer off the bench, the only guy that could consistently create his own shot, in 2013-14. He also led the LEAGUE in assists off the bench.
    6) Mo Williams averaged 2.2 assists per turnover last season: CJ McCollum averaged 0.8 assists per turnover.
    7) The Blazers can go over the cap to re-sign Mo using the Non-Bird Exception, and give him 120% raise in the process. This leaves Olshey with both the Mid-Level Exception ($5.3 mil per year) and the Bi-Annual Exception (about $2 million per year) as tools to improve the roster. Mo is, essentially, a “free” signing.
    I expect the Blazers WILL re-sign Mo Williams, leaving only one empty roster spot. You would think the next priority would be getting a veteran big to back-up Robin Lopez. That’s 15 players right there, and Olshey has previously stated that he prefers to begin the season with an open roster spot for trade flexibility.
    Appling is probably a long-shot, at best, to play for the 2014-15 Trail Blazers. I think Olshey would have to deal 2-3 players before it becomes a more legitimate possibility.

    • Draftdog

      Good points. One worry I have is the Blazers are bringing in two free agent guards for summer league, a point and a 2 guard. That would seem to indicate they are at least nervous about the guard situation.